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AI-Assisted Ultrasound Technology to Improve Outcomes in Low-and-Middle-Income Countries

By MedImaging International staff writers
Posted on 21 Sep 2023
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Image: AI-assisted ultrasound algorithms will be developed to run on multiple ultrasound devices (Photo courtesy of GE HealthCare)
Image: AI-assisted ultrasound algorithms will be developed to run on multiple ultrasound devices (Photo courtesy of GE HealthCare)

Maternal and child mortality remains a significant health concern worldwide. In 2020, nearly 800 women died daily from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and about 95% of these deaths occurred in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs). In 2019, an alarming 2.4 million children passed away during their first month of life. Ultrasound technologies play a crucial role in maternal care, helping assess various indicators of fetal health. For children under five, pneumonia is the leading cause of death globally, and early diagnosis is essential for effective treatment. Point of care lung ultrasounds offer a reliable method for diagnosing pneumonia, surpassing the accuracy of bedside chest X-rays.

To address these challenges, GE HealthCare (Chicago, IL, USA) has received a grant of over USD 44 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The aim is to develop user-friendly, AI-powered ultrasound assessment tools that can assist medical staff—even those who may not have specialized ultrasound training—in making informed clinical decisions. These tools will focus on improving ultrasound scans for both maternal and fetal care, as well as pediatric lung health, and are intended to broaden access to healthcare in LMICs and various care settings.

Caption Health, an industry leader in medical AI that was acquired by GE HealthCare in February 2023, will spearhead the development of this technology. The technology will be compatible with a variety of ultrasound devices, including more affordable handheld options. Caption Health had previously received a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2020 to work on AI technology for lung ultrasound. Leveraging this grant, Caption Health will now focus on creating a series of lung ultrasound and obstetric algorithms, which will go through clinical validation and regulatory approval processes. Currently, Caption Health provides FDA-cleared Cardiac Guidance software.

“We are proud and excited to have received this grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to make ultrasound more accessible in low-and-middle income countries. Ultrasound is an essential tool for screening and diagnosis of various medical conditions, including the health of expectant mothers and managing respiratory diseases,” said Roland Rott, President and CEO, Ultrasound, GE HealthCare. “However, a key limitation is the guidance of lesser-skilled users to effectively apply affordable point-of-care ultrasound in their care environment. This grant will help bring Caption Health’s leading AI technology customized to more users, and therefore contribute to increased access to higher-quality medical care.”

“Caption Health AI applications are designed to guide healthcare professionals, step-by-step, during an ultrasound exam to help them capture and interpret high-quality ultrasound images,” said Karley Yoder, Chief Digital Officer, Ultrasound, GE HealthCare and General Manager, Caption Health. “We are thankful for the continued support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which enables us to expand the development of our existing lung ultrasound project and also broaden the reach of this powerful, novel technology to help provide care to mothers and children.”

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